Iron ship moves
Niagara Falls, Ontario
A wrecked iron scow that has been wedged against rocks at the top of Niagara Falls for 101 years has been dislodged, and it could plunge over the 167-foot drop. The 80-foot vessel has been a tourist attraction since 1918, when a rope connecting the scow to a tugboat snapped during a dredging operation. It got stuck a third of a mile from the falls’ edge, forcing the daring rescue of two trapped crew members. “I thought it would be there for all time,” said David Adames of the Niagara Parks Commission. A powerful storm with 50 mph winds wrenched the wreck free on Halloween night and pushed it some 160 feet downriver. Officials said it could be stuck where it is now for years or move again at any time.
Gang rapists acquitted
Protests broke out in Spain this week after five men were acquitted of raping an unconscious 14-year-old girl at a party in an abandoned warehouse. The court said the attack did not meet Spain’s legal definition of rape, which requires that a perpetrator use violence or intimidation. That didn’t occur in this case, because the victim was unconscious from drugs and alcohol. The five were convicted instead on the lesser charge of sexual abuse and received sentences of 10 to 12 years in prison. The ruling recalled a 2016 case, in which five men were convicted of abuse rather than rape because the victim could not prove that the gang that surrounded her in Pamplona had used violence. The Supreme Court overruled that verdict this summer and found the men guilty of rape.
La Mora, Mexico
Suspected drug cartel gunmen killed nine members of an American-Mexican family, including six children, in an ambush near the U.S. border this week. The group, members of a Mormon offshoot that settled in Mexico in 1944, were traveling from their family ranch in Sonora to the neighboring state of Chihuahua when one of their three cars broke down. Gang members attacked the car that fell behind, killing Rhonita Miller and her four children, including 8-month-old twins; they then set the car alight. An ambush on the other cars killed two women and two boys ages 3 and 11. Eight children survived that attack. Mexican officials said the gunmen may have mistaken the SUVs for those of a rival cartel. President Trump tweeted an offer to send the U.S. Army to help Mexico “wage WAR on the drug cartels.” Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador declined it.
Morales clings on
La Paz, Bolivia
Opposition leaders called on Bolivian President Evo Morales to resign this week as protests over his disputed election win entered their third week. Morales was declared winner of the Oct. 20 vote by just over 10 percentage points, but observers and activists suspect his vote total was massaged so he could avoid a runoff against runner-up Carlos Mesa. Opposition leader Luis Fernando Camacho flew to La Paz this week with a resignation letter for Morales, but officials wouldn’t let him leave the airport because Morales supporters had massed outside. The Organization of American States is auditing the vote. Morales, in power since 2005, was allowed to run for an unprecedented fourth term after a court ruling that the opposition says was corrupt.
British officials were taken aback by the Trump administration’s request that they help it investigate American intelligence agencies, British media reported last week. Attorney General William Barr is overseeing a criminal investigation into the origins of the FBI’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. U.S. intelligence concluded unequivocally that Russian hacks and covert social media campaigns were aimed at helping President Trump win the election; some commentators have speculated that Barr wants to discredit that conclusion. “They are basically asking, in quite robust terms, for help in doing a hatchet job on their own intelligence services,” one diplomat told Independent.co.uk. Barr has also asked Italy and Australia to investigate.
Rio de Janeiro
President Jair Bolsonaro’s government has been closing publicly funded art exhibitions, movies, and plays that criticize his government or Brazil’s former military dictatorship. This week, an official burst into a Rio de Janeiro theater during the staging of a children’s play, Abrazo, about a fictional dictatorship in which hugging is outlawed, and shut it down, saying the performers were in breach of contract. “We’re not going to persecute anyone, but Brazil’s changed,” Bolsonaro said at a conservative forum last month. “We won’t support certain types of works with public money. That’s not censorship. That’s preserving Christian values, treating youth with respect, recognizing families.”
American racist deported
An American white supremacist was detained in Norway this week just hours before he was to speak at an international far-right conference in Oslo. Greg Johnson, who promotes a “white genocide” conspiracy theory through his Counter-Currents Publishing group, was to address the Scandza Forum, a network that promotes anti-Semitic and racist views. “He stands for and communicates an extreme right-wing ideology,” police spokesman Martin Bernsen said. “There’s a danger that it can result in violence.” In a 2012 blog post, Johnson wrote that he had “respect” for Anders Breivik, the Norwegian far-right terrorist who killed 77 people—most of them teenagers—in 2011. Johnson said authorities had misrepresented his views on Breivik and that he does not condone violence. Johnson was deported to Hungary, where he has a residence permit.
Rage against Iran
Iraqis upset at Tehran’s influence over their government attacked Iranian symbols this week, torching the headquarters of political parties linked to Iran and throwing firebombs at the Iranian consulate in Karbala. “Free, free Iraq,” they shouted. “Iran, get out, get out.” In Baghdad, some 200,000 protesters called for the fall of the Iran-friendly, graft-addled government, and many hurled shoes at posters of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The mostly young protesters are largely Shiites, which undercuts Iran’s claim that it speaks for Iraq’s Shiite majority. They want to scrap the corrupt political system that allocates power along ethnic and sectarian lines and replace it with a presidential system. Over the past month, at least 250 protesters have been killed in clashes with police and pro-government militias.
Step toward nukes
Continuing its incremental violations of the 2015 international nuclear deal, Iran said this week that it would begin injecting uranium gas into more than 1,000 centrifuges, a process that can produce enriched uranium suitable for use in a nuclear weapon. Iranian officials said the uranium would be enriched only to 4.5 percent fissile purity—90 percent is required for warhead-grade fuel—and President Hassan Rouhani suggested that the step was reversible and was meant to press the U.S. to lift sanctions. President Trump in 2018 pulled the U.S. out of the pact—which limited Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief—even though Iran was in compliance with its obligations. When the U.S. begins “living up to their commitments,” Rouhani said, “then we will stop feeding gas to the centrifuges.”
Afghan paramilitary forces trained and backed by the CIA have committed war crimes, Human Rights Watch said last week. In a 53-page report that followed a two-year investigation, the group said the units carried out executions of civilians, launched bloody attacks on medical facilities, and ordered indiscriminate airstrikes—all violations of international law. The CIA said that unlike the Taliban, it conducts its operations “under a robust system of oversight.” The U.S. military provides the paramilitaries with intelligence and air support, and CIA contractors and Army Rangers often patrol with them. Since President Trump loosened the rules of engagement for U.S. forces in Afghanistan two years ago, civilian deaths from airstrikes have soared, from 142 in 2016 to at least 579 so far this year.
Authorities in India’s capital declared a public health emergency this week as thick smog choked residents and flights were canceled because of low visibility. Schools were shuttered and parents told to keep children indoors. Pollution in New Delhi is literally off the charts, with the air quality index at the upper limit of 999; the normal range is 0 to 50. Breathing that air has the same health effect as smoking 50 cigarettes a day, said medical experts. “Delhi has turned into a gas chamber,” said the city’s chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal. Scientists say the haze is caused by a combination of harvest-time crop burning, car exhaust, smoke from Diwali fireworks, and stagnant weather conditions that have trapped those airborne pollutants over the city.
Flogged for adultery
An Indonesian imam who helped draft ultrastrict adultery laws for the province of Aceh has been publicly whipped with a rattan cane for violating them. Mukhlis bin Muhammad, a 46-year-old member of the Aceh Ulema Council, was caught with a married woman in a parked car and received 28 lashes last week, while the woman got 23. He was also kicked off the council. “This is God’s law,” said Husaini Wahab, the deputy mayor of Aceh Besar district. “Anyone must be flogged if proven guilty.” Aceh adopted sharia in 2005, the only province in Indonesia to do so, and the laws apply to Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
AP, Getty, Reuters, AP, Reuters ■